Climate change, the greatest challenge of our time, brought together over 90 Romanian and international speakers in Bucharest on 19-20 October at the Climate Change Summit. They shared solutions for a sustainable future with 1,700 attendees at the National Opera and in 20 related locations across Bucharest. Additionally, 827,000 viewers from around the world watched the live broadcast on the Twitter account of the partner platform We Don’t Have Time.
In its second edition, the Climate Change Summit has become a reference event in the region for innovators, entrepreneurs, researchers, representatives of business and employer associations, as well as civil society and government officials. It brought to the public’s attention topics such as the future of the circular economy, finance, agriculture, wildlife conservation and local communities.
“The idea behind this initiative was to bring together the key players in the transition to sustainability, whether it’s authorities, activists, start-ups, think tanks, or companies, to exchange ideas and learn from each other. Everything we do, everything happening around us, from the economy to education, has an impact on the environment but can also become a source of sustainable solutions,” said Maria Rousseva, Deputy CEO of BRD Groupe Société Générale, at the opening of the second Climate Change Summit.
“Solving complex problems related to climate change requires the involvement of all parties. We are honoured that all these groups were represented at the second edition of the Climate Change Summit – central and local authorities, civic and business communities, experts and entrepreneurs. Our future depends on collaboration and determination, and we are glad we can facilitate this dialogue,” stated Ciprian Stănescu, President of Social Innovation Solutions.
The role of intersectoral and international collaboration was also highlighted by a message from the President of Romania, Klaus Iohannis, who mentioned the importance of education in the fight against climate change during various conferences and events at universities within the Climate Change Summit: “Children and young people are deeply concerned about climate change and its impact on their lives, but at the same time, they are eager to get involved in addressing it. We must empower them and provide them with opportunities to participate in accelerating the green transition, including ensuring they have the right skills and tools for this purpose”. His message was presented by Alexandra-Maria Bocșe, State Counselor – Department of Climate and Sustainability.
“Our country is a signatory to the Paris Agreement and is strongly committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. We believe that the transformation of Romania’s economy into a green and digital one is a long-term process that requires a strong national plan supported by all political, business and civic forces,” said the message from Romania’s Prime Minister, Marcel Ciolacu, through the presence of the State Counselor, Mihaela Frăsineanu.
Climate Change: A Global Challenge with Local Solutions
During the summit, Nicușor Dan, the Mayor of Bucharest and Hubert Thuma, the President of Ilfov County Council, both became signatories to the Memorandum for Clean Air, Health, and the Future. This was achieved by establishing the Green Belt of Bucharest-Ilfov, which is a part of the Civic Platform Împreună pentru Centura Verde, co-founded by high-altitude mountaineer Alex Găvan and Florin Stoican, the director of the “Oltenia de sub munte” geopark. This initiative represents one of the proposed solutions by civil society to address the severe pollution affecting the health of Bucharest residents and the surrounding areas.
Another local topic of interest was the sustainable energy ecosystem that Romania aims to build. Sebastian Burduja, Minister of Energy, announced that the Ministry of Energy has a budget of 18 billion euros for investment, which he considers the largest sum available to any ministry in Romania for directing it toward new projects, investments, and the private market. Furthermore, he announced that “the number of prosumers in Romania is expected to increase over the next two years to 236,000, and by 2030, it is expected to exceed 350,000.”
The first day’s agenda at the summit covered topics such as climate actions, the circular economy, nature-centred projects, sustainability in the textile and food industries, agriculture, and urban planning. Expert in climate economics and sustainable finance, Ingmar Jurgens explained how the economy can become sustainable, concluding with an optimistic message: “We need cooperation, agility, and support. We need cooperation because we have to learn from each other, we need agility to focus, try, make mistakes, and work together, and at the end of the day, we need to convince everyone to have the same goal. We need knowledge and the ability to build an ecosystem that works in the new reality.”
Elina Bardram, Director for “Adaptation & Resilience, Communication, and Civil Society Relations” at the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Climate Action, spoke about the role of this directorate and its future. She emphasised the importance of three forces that apply to both policymakers and ordinary citizens. In the era of disinformation and defeatism, we will survive only through collaboration, courage, and compassion for the less prepared in Europe and our global partners, whom we must help move forward.
Georgia Elliott-Smith, a sustainability consultant, environmental activist, and professional speaker, discussed what sustainability truly means and how it should be everyone’s responsibility. She stated, “First and foremost, we have a problem with how we define the term ‘sustainability,’ as it has become more of a way to say ‘environmental management.’ But that’s not what it’s about. Sustainability is actually how you can support a successful business in the long term. And that means you have to take into account environmental issues, but it’s not just that.”
Ed Gillespie, a futurist, writer, inspirational speaker, and co-founder of Futerra, discussed the future of climate action and emphasised that the true question posed by the future is, “How hot will we allow the Earth to become? We know the consequences of our inaction: as the temperature rises, weather events become more violent, and as the Earth becomes hotter, we become more violent. And I don’t think it’s about saving our planet. The planet doesn’t need saving or changing. It needs to be loved and appreciated for all the wonders it offers us. So, it’s about our collective potential, it’s about the future of our children, and it’s about our own stability and freedom.”
On the second day of the Climate Change Summit, which included 20 events at different locations in the city – conferences in five universities, workshops, roundtable discussions, and working groups in the Parliament, Government, Ministry of Environment, and the European Commission – discussions revolved around green startups, climate resilience, climate change and artificial intelligence, energy transition, sustainable agriculture practices, food security, sustainable financing, the role of central and local authorities in achieving SDG6 objectives, sustainable entrepreneurship, circular economy opportunities, environmental policies, research and development in energy technologies, as well as literature, storytelling and youth involvement in climate action.